Sara Kollo – The fierce boys from Sri Lanka

Shounak Sengupta

27o, Aug, 2017

We caught up with SK’s captain Hawkie who had recently come down to India to play in the South Asia Qualifiers, to get his thoughts on Dota, the ROG Masters and more …….

1.Hi Hawkie. Give us a brief down-low on what the Dota scene in Sri Lanka is like? What are some of the major tournaments that you guys look forward to?

The community is great! Everyone’s really supportive of each other. We don’t have many highly skilled players, but a lot of people are interested in actually learning and improving, and they try hard at tournaments, so there is hope for the future. Of course, as with any community, there are disagreements, but they usually resolve themselves fairly quickly.
In terms of numbers, it’s been growing at a steady pace over the years - our Facebook group has nearly 4k members, and we’re closing in on 10k Dota 2 players in Sri Lanka (I may be wrong). I remember a time where we struggled to get 100 players in Garena’s Sri Lanka DotA room.
We have a lot of tournaments hosted throughout the year by the general community. The prize money for these aren’t great - about 10,000 LKR (4,000 INR) for the winning team, which is about enough to cover travel and food expenses for the tournament weekend. The year culminates with the Sri Lankan Cyber Games (SLCG), which has roughly 50-60 teams participating in it, and an additional 10-20 from qualifiers held around the country. Once again, this has no prize money (and terrible PCs) but the competition is great!
As for 3rd party events, we have just two organisations that host annual tournaments - Redline Technologies (a high-end computer store) and Sri Lanka Telecom (our largest telecommunications provider). Both tournaments are really well organised, have high-end computers to play on, and a cash prize of around 100k LKR (40k INR) for the winning team. So, it’s these two that we mostly look forward to.
All in all, we have a lot of driven DotA players, but no one willing to invest money in the scene.

2. What was your preparation like coming into this tournament? I believe you guys had some visa issues and stuff. How did that affect you?

Our team was reformed after a two-year hiatus only about 1-2 months before the tournament. That combined with visa issues and other commitments left us with only a few weeks of practice.
On the days we did practice, we usually spent our mornings solo queuing to hone our individual skills, and in the afternoons and evenings, we scrimmed to practice our drafting and teamwork.
We’re actually from three different local teams - Paradoxx, SATHAN and I are from Thé Kadé, TZ and AB are from Division 9, and ToaDBosS is from Indomitus. So, some of us had to play roles that we weren’t used to, which made things a little more difficult.
The visa issues were super stressful - especially for me. I (regrettably) took on the role of managing the team, so a few hours each day were spent doing administrative work. Things got really hectic when two of our visas got denied on the Monday preceding the tournament, and suddenly our focus shifted from practicing to actually making it to India. To top it all off, my computer got bricked on the same day and I had to reinstall Windows.

3. What were your expectations like coming into the LAN? Did you guys specifically prepare for some particular teams/players and if so why?
We knew that Signify and A5 were very tough opponents, so winning the entire thing was unlikely at best, but not altogether impossible. As for the remaining teams, we felt that we should be winning against them. It was difficult for us to gauge the strength of any of the teams because we hadn’t played against any of them for years. Whatever our assessment was, none of us expected to come last place.
However, we did manage to find a few games of the participating teams posted on Facebook and YouTube and watched them in preparation for tournament. We’ve also played against many of the individual players in ranked matchmaking, so we sort of knew their favourite heroes and whatnot.

4. Were you guys happy with the way you played in your matches. Was there something you learnt or something you can take back from the tournament?

Not at all. We’re all really disappointed in the way we played. Even in the one game that we won, we made several mistakes. We were unable to hit our stride with our drafts and didn’t play enough scrims to find a pool of heroes that worked well for us.
I watched the replays of all our matches. It was pretty hard watching ourselves lose again, and re-experiencing that moment of elimination. Watching those games made me want to pull my hair out, especially our final game. So yeah, there’s a lot to learn from the tournament. It’s hard to summarise it in a sentence though.
However, we did win the majority of our teamfights, so there’s something positive that we can take away from this.


5. How was the experience in terms of the environment, the stay, the other teams and the main event?

The weather in Bengaluru was super nice - slightly chilly, but not enough to make you shiver. The hotel was great, and the food was absolutely amazing! We had a chance to explore the city and do some shopping too.
We didn’t expect to play in a cybercafé, but the setup was pretty good. Never played on a 144 Hz monitor before! Unfortunately, the combination of dark rooms, bright screens and cigarette smoke gave me a pretty bad migraine, but that’s just me. A lot of the players and people were friendly, and we finally put a face to many of the names we’ve seen online.
We just have one gripe - towards the end of our elimination our opposition began trash talking “Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka! Go back home Sri Lanka!”. Yeah that was shitty. Especially because we were told not to trash talk at the start of the series. I understand the hype of winning a series, but I’m certain you can express happiness without putting down the opposition.
None of us get paid to play or receive any form of sponsorship. We put a lot of hard work into this tournament and made a lot of sacrifices. I myself took 1.5 months of no-pay leave from my job to practice for it. Losing in itself was shitty enough.

6. What's does the future hold for SK? And what are your plans for the upcoming season?

We definitely want to continue playing together. Two years ago, we were comparatively much better than we are now, so we have a lot of catching up to do. We’re most likely going to stick to the same roster, but perhaps swap our roles around a bit to see what works best for us.
We are actively searching for some form of sponsorship, so that we can focus on DotA for a good year or so and see where it leads us. It’s really difficult to work and play a lot of DotA at the same time.
We plan on reducing our participation in local tournaments and shift our focus to playing online qualifiers - so hopefully you’ll see us again in the future!

7. Last but not the least, do you guys have any shoutouts?

Shoutout to R_L and his minions for all the hard work they’ve done for the local gaming scene, the Sri Lankan DotA Community itself for the overwhelming support they’ve shown for us, the ASUS team for organising such a wonderful tournament and sponsoring our trip to India, and finally our team guardian Naveen for showing us around, giving us some inside info about the Indian teams and just being awesome in general.